Atuot people

The Atuot (Reel) are a Nilotic ethnic group of South Sudan who live near Yirol in Eastern Lakes State. They comprise a majority of the population in the payam of Yirol West.[4]

Total population
approx. 50,000 (1998)[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
 South Sudan (Eastern Lakes State[3])
Atuot language and Dinka language[1][2]
Traditional African religion and Christianity
Related ethnic groups
other Nilotic peoples, esp. the Nuer and the Dinka


The Atuot people speak the Atuot language (Atuot: Thok Reel), which was first recognized as a separate language from Dinka by anthropologist John Burton in 1987. It is a Western Nilotic language of the Dinka-Nuer group, closely related to the Nuer language and more distantly to the Luo languages. SIL International estimate that the number of Atuot speakers is 50,000.[1][3]

Atuot speakers distinguish two dialects to their language, Thok Reel Cieng Luai and Thok Reel Cieng Nhyam with Thok Reel Cieng Nhyam being the more lexically conservative of the two.[5] Most Atuot are bilingual in Dinka and Atuot.[2][6]

A distinctive feature of the language is its having of three contrastive vowel lengths.[7]


The Atuot share much of their culture with their neighbours. Like the Dinka and Nuer, they are also semi-sedentary cattle-herding pastoralists, meaning that while the travel with their herds to grazing grounds, they don't go far from where they had started.[3] There are seven subsections of the Atuot: Jilek, Luac, Jikeyi (Rorkec), Kuek, Apak, Akot and Ajong. The Ajong subsection claims to speak their own dialect known as Thok-ajong, a hard version of Thok Reel. Jikeyi and Kuek speak Thok Reel Cieng Nhyam. The Luac, Jilek, and Akot speak Thok Reel Cieng Luai.[1] The Apak speak Thong Apak which is dialect of South Central Dinka.[5]

Atuot country

The territory of the Atuot consists of the forests east and south of Yirol, and a small part of Bahr el Ghazal, generally following the river Payii from Lake Yirol. The region is mainly contained within the old Sudanese state of Lakes.

There were approximately 24,700 Atuot at the time of the local dialect survey in 1987.[8] SIL estimates that there were over 50,000 Atuot in 1998.[1] The population of Yirol West in the 2008 Sudanese census was 103,190 although not all inhabitants of the municipality are Atuot.[9] Since there is no clear way to find out the population, they are estimated to number at around 50,000.

See also


  1. "Reel Ethnologue". Ethnologue. 19. Ethnologue. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  2. "Dinka, South Central Ethnologue". 19. Ethnologue. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  3. Trust, Gurtong. "Atuot (Reel)". Retrieved 2016-10-25.
  4. Reid, p. 18
  5. Reid, pp. 20-21
  6. Reid, p. 22
  7. Reid, pp. 196
  8. Roettger, p. 24
  9. "5th Sudan Population and Housing Census 2008: Priority Results". South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics. South Sudan Commission for Census, Statistics and Evaluation. Retrieved 26 October 2016.


  • Burton, John W. (1987). A Nilotic World: the Atuot-Speaking Peoples of the Southern Sudan. London: Greenwood. ISBN 0313255016.
  • Burton, John W. (1981). God’s Ants: a Study of Atuot Religion. St. Augustin, West Germany: Anthropos Institute. ISBN 3921389410.
  • Reid, Tatiana (2010). Aspects of phonetics, phonology and morphophonology of Thok Reel (M.Sc.). University of Edinburgh.
  • Roettger, Larry and Lisa (1989). "A Dinka Dialect Study". Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages. Dallas: SIL publication (6).
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